Review by thelastmccabe

Reviewed: 02/22/11

Good but not amazing

Overall, this is a good game that I would definitely recommend, but perhaps not as highly as many reviewers, both professional ones and regular users. Just so you know, I finished the game yesterday (letting you know this because it sort of bugs me when people review games they haven’t finished). I think that if you have the choice to get this game for PC (in other words, you have a fast computer than can run it with all the graphics settings turned up pretty high), you should probably do that because then you would likely find mods to increase the difficulty of combat, which is my biggest complaint with the game.

The neatest thing about the game is its faithful re-creation of Renaissance Italy. Playing this game really makes you feel like you've gone back in time, which is really cool for anyone who is a big fan of history like I am. In each of the cities you visit (which include Florence and Venice), the game includes many real world landmarks that are spectacularly recreated. I haven’t actually seen any of these landmarks in person, but if you go online and look at pictures, the resemblance is uncanny. They really look just like the real things. Even better, you get to climb all over the landmarks and check them out up close, although unfortunately you only get to go inside a few of them. There are lots of people walking around in the cities that make them really feel alive, even though you can’t interact with most of them.

The second best thing about this game is the SPECTACULAR finale. I almost quit playing about 80 % of the way in because of the issues I detailed below, but I am very glad I didn’t because the final sequence, the final fight, and the ending were really, really cool. It definitely made me want to play the sequel.

Before I go on I want to provide just a brief summary of the game play which I found sort of difficult because it’s pretty varied. It’s a bit like GTA in that you have the freedom to roam around the city basically doing as you please, although you are not permitted to just kill random innocent people. You can earn money in various ways that you can use to improve your armor and weapons. You can climb all over the buildings, scaling pretty much any part of them, and leap from building to building—this is one of the coolest parts of the game.

Aside from this, the core of the game and the way that you advance the story is to perform various missions, like following this person or killing that person. Sometimes you might have to do it without guards detecting you. You start these missions by walking into the area designating on your map and then accepting them. Another big part of the game is what you might call collection or scavenger hunting type tasks. One of these is that, in order to reveal the map, you have to climb to the top of various landmarks. You also have to collect various “codex pages,” the locations of which are revealed when you reveal parts of the map.

Some parts of the game are optional but give you better gear or flesh out the story. One example of this is that you can attempt to find 20 “glyphs” on landmarks. When you do, you have to solve some puzzles and in return you get some extra info on the grand conspiracy that is the center of the game’s plot. This was a very cool part of the game, trying to figure out exactly what is going on with the Templars and unraveling the conspiracy. Another example is that you can explore 6 assassin’s tombs which basically entails a series of jumping puzzles (a lot more fun than I thought it would be).

Anyway, I’ll now talk about the graphics. the graphics in the game are usually very good, although some people (me included) notice various degrees of screen tearing. For me it was definitely noticeable, but not enough to really detract from the game. The graphics in the cut scenes are not as good as the graphics when you are roaming the world—some of the character models look a little bit odd, especially the mouths, but overall it’s fine. The sound was also good, and the music is really cool.

I enjoyed the story in this game and the feeling that you are unraveling this global conspiracy and mystery throughout the game is a very cool feeling. This is the sort of game where you want to keep playing to see what is going to be revealed next and to advance the story, which is a very good thing.

The control scheme is another strong point of the game. You quickly learn to climb all over buildings and climb all over the city with ease because it’s a very intuitive control scheme. The controls are also quite good for combat, although it can be tricky to target particular enemies.

Now I want to talk about the game’s weak points. The biggest flaw in this game is that combat, which plays a big role in the game, is way too easy. It’s basically impossible to die in combat—I never did. As long as you hold R1, enemies can barely hurt you, and even when they do, you can buy a belt full of medicine that you can use to heal yourself in the middle of combat. Because of this you can easily stand toe to toe with an army of enemies. This means that fighting in the game becomes more of a button mashing chore than a fun part of game play. Actually, at this point I want to say that for increased fun, if you get this game you might consider trying to not use the medicine belt at all or not upgrading to the biggest one.

The developers include various sorts of enemies that are supposed to require different tactics to defeat, but I basically never paid much attention to this because I didn’t need to. If you just mash square enough or use your counter moves you will eventually kill anything (including the final boss) without much trouble.

The fact that combat is so easy infects other parts of the game as well. The game includes all sorts of hiding places that are supposed to be used as a way to get away from guards who you have angered. I think this was intended to be a big part of the game, but I basically never used any of them because there is rarely any point in running away. The only time I ran instead of fighting is when I was going to have to kill so many guards that it would just be less time consuming to run.

My second big criticism of this game is that it is a little long and gets a bit repetitive. Of course, the length of a game can be seen as a strong suit as well since you are getting more bang for your buck. I was about ready for the game to be over when I was 75 % of the way through, but I kept playing because I enjoyed the story and wanted to see what was going to happen. Climbing to the top of buildings is fun for a while, but it does get old eventually. The fighting gets boring for the reasons I described above, as does endlessly running around from place to place—the final city, Venice, is particularly large and annoying to get around in. My advice would be to take a few weeks away from the game when you are about 50 % to 60 % of the way finished so that you can come back and have it seem fresh again.

I spent most of this review talking about the game’s weak points, but overall it is a good game.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)

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